Immunity is the ability of an organism to resist harmful microorganisms from entering it. Immunity involves both specific and nonspecific components. The nonspecific components act as barriers or eliminators of a wide range of pathogens, irrespective of their antigenic makeup.
How does the Immune System Work?
The immune system has two main types of cells: white blood cells and antibodies. White blood cells perform several functions to help the body fight infections. They can engulf foreign particles and destroy them with chemicals or by releasing enzymes that digest them. They can also produce antibodies that bind with specific invaders and mark them for destruction by other immune cells. Antibodies are made by specialized white blood cells called B lymphocytes. B lymphocytes produce antibodies according to instructions from T helper cells, another type of white blood cell.
The immune system is a complex network of organs, cells, and proteins that protect the body from foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses. It contains two parts: the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system.
The innate immune system includes physical barriers such as skin and mucous membranes, which prevent harmful substances from entering the body; chemicals called phagocytes that destroy harmful substances; natural killer cells and T lymphocytes that attack cancer cells; and antibodies that fight off specific infections. The adaptive immune system learns to recognize foreign invaders to create better defenses against them.
Adaptive immunity is a more specific response to an invader. It is acquired through exposure to pathogens or their products using antibodies produced by B lymphocytes or T lymphocytes. Antibodies are produced after exposure to an antigen that causes an immune response, either humoral (antibody production) or cellular (T cells).
The adaptive immune system has two branches: humoral immunity and cell-mediated immunity.
Humoral immunity is the part of the immune system that helps fight infections by producing antibodies. Antibodies are Y-shaped proteins produced by B cells that bind to antigens, such as bacteria or viruses, that have entered the body. This causes other white blood cells to attack and destroy these foreign substances.
Cell-mediated immunity (CMI) is the part of the immune system that recognizes and destroys infected cells. It does not use antibodies but T cells (a type of white blood cell) to recognize and eliminate infected cells, cancer cells, and other damaged or abnormal body cells.
Parts of the Immune System
Skin – skin acts as a barrier against germs entering the body. It also secretes oils that keep skin moist, which helps prevent infections from spreading through the body.
Mouth – saliva contains chemicals that kill germs before they enter your mouth or throat
Nose – mucus traps dust and other particles that may contain germs before they reach deeper into your lungs.
Lungs – mucus helps remove bacteria from the lungs when coughing or sneezing.
Throat – phlegm (or mucus) traps germs before they reach your stomach, where they could cause infection.
Stomach – acid in your stomach kills most bacteria before they can enter.
How does the change in seasons affect the immune system?
The immune system is affected in different ways by seasonal changes:
In colder months, people spend more time indoors and are less likely to be exposed to germs. This means that they have less chance to develop immunity to them. This can make you more susceptible to colds and flu during winter.
In warm weather, people tend to spend more time outdoors. This can increase their risk of getting infected with viruses such as chickenpox and measles as they contact other people who may have these viruses in their bodies. This can make you more susceptible to these infections during the summer months.
Major Organs of the Immune System
The immune system is made up of cells and organs that work together to protect the body from infection. The major organs of the immune system include:
Thymus Gland: This gland, located behind the breastbone, produces thymus hormones that stimulate T-cell development.
Spleen: The spleen filters blood and destroys old or damaged blood cells. It also stores white blood cells and platelets for use when needed by other parts of the body.
Bone Marrow: Bone marrow makes red blood cells, white blood cells (lymphocytes), and platelets (small pieces of blood).
Lifestyle adjustments will help to boost your immune system.
The following lifestyle adjustments can support your immune function:
Eat a balanced diet, including plenty of fruits and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants help protect the body from free radicals, which can damage cells.
Drink Lots of Water to keep your body hydrated. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, headaches, and decreased immunity.
Get enough sleep every night — at least seven hours for most adults. Lack of sleep can weaken your immune system by reducing levels of important hormones such as cortisol and melatonin that regulate your body’s daily processes.
Exercise regularly to maintain good health and prevent disease. Exercise boosts circulation throughout the body and increases the production of nitric oxide, which helps fight infections by reducing inflammation.
Supplements That Support Your Immune System
Here are some of the most popular supplements for supporting your immune system:
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps fight free radicals. Free radicals are harmful byproducts of normal bodily processes that damage cells and tissues and can contribute to chronic disease. Vitamin C may also support your immune system by helping white blood cells fight infection more effectively.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help support good digestion and prevent diarrhea caused by antibiotic use or illness. Probiotics work by competing with pathogenic (harmful) bacteria for space in your intestines so that they can’t multiply and cause illness.
Probiotic Blend: Restores beneficial bacteria to the body.